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date: 16 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores the complex, destabilizing power of desire and erotic attachment in Shakespeare’s comedies, examining same-sex as well as heterosexual couplings. It considers the various forms—social, literary, and linguistic—through with eroticism is ‘comprehended’ (in all senses of the word) in the plays, including the form of comedy itself; it questions to what extent these forms are presented as adequate to contain the disruptive or amorphous desires within them. Particular attention is therefore given to the ends of plays and to issues of erotic satisfaction and closure. Focusing on formal as well as thematic and characterological expressions of eroticism allows us to complicate earlier critical assessments of such plays as The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, both of which are examined in detail here. Brief analyses are also provided of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Much Ado about Nothing.

Keywords: Eros, eroticism, sexuality, desire, homoeroticism, marriage, comic form, closure, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night

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